Invaluable Life Lessons Through Youth Sports
Our 11 and 13 year-old-boys, Ben and Sam, pretty much move from sport to sport through the seasons. Yesterday brought the end of wrestling season for Sam and basketball for Ben, then next week Sam moves on to track and Ben to baseball in a couple more weeks. At other times of the year they've played football, played soccer, skied, Ben also wrestled, they swim and enjoy oudoor sports like biking, skateboarding and hiking. Another season, another sport, which means more hectic schedules and running around for mom and dad, too.
Chances are neither boy is going to grow up to go into professional sports. Well, maybe, I mean you never know, but we're not especially planning on it. An athletic scholarship thrown in would be nice, but we won't count on that either. So why do we do it? Why do we pull our hair out over their schedules and why do they work so long and hard?
This led me to do a lot of soul searching about just why we and they go to the trouble and I'm kind of proud with the answers I've come up with. The benefits should last them throughout their lives, not only personally, but professionally. They're gaining the skills and values that will see them through life.
Here's what I think and hope we are all learning:
1. Work hard. Nothing good in life comes easily. It takes hard work. If you goof around at practice, the game probably won't go so well.
2. Dedication. Pick a goal and stick to it. If you fail, try again. If you don't feel like doing something one day, do it anyway. You committed to do it.
3. Team work. You can't do everything alone. Getting along with people and working together will help you succeed. Even in individual sports like wrestling, the support of your team can see you through.
4. Be someone that other's can count on. Do your part, all the time, even if you think your part is small or if you're not the "star". If you are there for your teammates, they will be there for you.
5. Take care of your body and it will take care of you. Your body is a machine that needs tuning and energy. The more work and good things you put into it, the more you get out of it.
6. One skill builds on another. It takes steps to reach a goal. And lots and lots of practice.
7. Respect for property. Take care and keep track of your equipment and it will take care of you.
8. Organization. When your schedule is full you must think ahead and schedule when to get everything done. If the football bus isn't going to get you home until 11 p.m., when will you do your homework?
9. Trust yourself. Put in the work, the practice, the repititions then trust that the skills will be there when you need them.
10. Confidence than you can do what you set out to do. You can, in fact, do anything if you put in the work. Worthwhile things are not easy and can even hurt a little. That's what life is all about.
11. Good sportsmanship. Respect others on and off the field. Others are going through the same kind of experiences. Think about how would you want to be treated then treat others that way.
12. Balance. It's not all about the sport you're playing. If you haven't enjoyed other things, the sport can be overwhelming and you can lose the joy of it, which is not conducive to doing it well.
13. Family is important. We are always there for our boys. Mel plays catch with them, practices shooting hoops, wrestles with them at home. I have sat through more hours of practice than I could ever add up. One or the other of us, and often both of us, are at every game or match. They are not in this alone and never will be.
14. Have fun. It's not all about winning and succeeding. Sometimes it's just about enjoying being with "the guys", your friends, and reveling in the fun part of the sport.
15. Humility. No matter how hard you work, some times you won't win and something might not work out. But you can still be proud, as long as you did your best. Everyone makes mistakes and occasionally fails. All you can do is pick yourself up and move on.
I'm sure there are many others that I didn't think of this early Sunday morning so I'd love to hear your thoughts and additions to this list. Did you (or do you still) play sports and what did you get out of them in the long run?